Guest Post by The Heritage Cook: Coconut Layer Cake

by Shumaila

Since I am in India and have had almost no time to blog, and as I was aware that this would be the case, I had asked a few blogger friends to help me out with keeping this blog going while I am away.

The first in the series was the guest post by Ameena. Today, Jane from the blog The Heritage Cook is guest posting. Those of you who have been following my blog, should remember Jane from the Red Wine Poached Pears’ post and the Apple Crisp’s post.

I found out about Jane’s site when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club, and was re-introduced to it when I was assigned hers. And I am so glad that such was the case, because there are oodles and oodles of delicious recipes on her site. She also does a weekly ritual of Chocolate Mondays and Festive Fridays! Do check them out, if you haven’t already (although in all likelihood you have already heard of her before and this introduction is just a repetition).

I have bookmarked quite a few of her recipes and hopefully would be trying them all out soon.

I am so glad she agreed to do this guest post and even more glad that she chose a Coconut Layer cake to share. I am in love with coconut these days!

Thank you so much Jane for a lovely post. I would have expected nothing less than perfection coming from you and this looks just that-perfect!


I am so thrilled to be guest posting on The Novice Housewife! I first discovered Shumaila when I was assigned her blog to cook from for The Secret Recipe Club we both belong to. What a delightful site with so many wonderful recipes to choose from. One of the best aspects of this club is getting to know other bloggers, and I am happy to say that The Novice Housewife is one of my favorites! Thank you Shumaila for this opportunity.

When I was thinking of what I should share with you today, I knew I wanted something special. Coconut is a favorite flavor in India and I know that Shumaila likes to highlight that cuisine, so thought that this beautiful coconut cake would be the perfect recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

This recipe is from one of America’s preeminent cookbook authors and food writers, Nancie McDermott. Helping her grandmother in the kitchen started her passion for cooking and being from North Carolina gave her an amazing legacy of fabulous cooks to learn from. Two of her cookbooks are dedicated to Southern desserts, “Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Recipes, from Lemon Chess to Chocolate” and “Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations.” Today’s recipe is from Southern Cakes and is Nancie’s amazing old-fashioned coconut cake. It is the cover shot for the cookbook and always makes me stop in my tracks when I see it. It is incredible how inspiring a photograph can be!

Now if you’re like me and cannot get enough of the flavor of coconut, you can use canned unsweetened coconut milk in place of regular milk in the recipe. And if you’re totally nuts about it, you can even add a couple drops of coconut extract or oil. Just be careful and don’t go overboard. It is possible you can get too much of a good thing! For a showstopper cake, you can double the recipe and make a three or four layer cake. Make sure you double the frosting too, you wouldn’t want to run short of that, LOL.

If you want to cut back on the sweetness of the cake without losing any of the flavor, you can substitute unsweetened coconut. I usually like this better in my recipes. I think it helps balance the sweet and savory a little more. It is the only type of coconut I use in my macaroon cookies and what I use when a recipe doesn’t designate a specific kind. Try making the same recipe twice, once with sweetened coconut and the second with unsweetened, and see which you prefer.

As incredible as it may seem, there are some people that don’t care for coconut. Their primary complaint is the texture; they don’t like the chewiness. If you are baking for people like this, one way to get around that is to finely grind the coconut in a food processor. Pulse it until you reach the right consistency for your taste. Pulsing lets the bigger pieces fall to the bottom, making sure your ingredients get chopped more evenly.

When you are making layer cakes it is important to let them cool completely before starting to assemble the cake. If they are warm the frosting will melt and you will have a real mess on your hands. Also, for a tidy appearance, slip strips of waxed paper under the edges of the bottom layer to catch any drips. Once you are done frosting the cake, remove the paper strips and your serving plate will be beautifully clean.

If you are going to present your cake with coconut covering the entire surface (the way I like to) make sure you buy a lot of extra coconut. It is always better to have too much than too little. While using white coconut is traditional, you could also toast a little to sprinkle on the top for a nice contrast of color. Either way this is a spectacular cake that your family and guests will swoon over!


Classic Coconut Cake
Modified recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

Yield: 8 to 10 servings; enough frosting for any layer cake, 2 (9×13-inch) cakes, or 3 to 4 dozen cupcakes



  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk (or unsweetened coconut milk, if desired)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • About 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut


To Make the Cake:Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together well. Set aside. In a measuring cup, stir the vanilla into the milk.

In a large bowl beat the softened butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl twice, until the mixture is light and evenly combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition, until the mixture is thick and smooth.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until completely incorporated. Add 1/2 the milk/vanilla, beating well. Beat in another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the remaining milk, and finally the remaining flour, beating well each time until the batter is very thick and smooth.

Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans, dividing it evenly, and place them in the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched lightly in the center, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans.

Place the pans on wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and place back on the racks, right side up, to finish cooling completely. Once cool you have the option of splitting each layer in half to create 4 thinner layers.

To Make the Frosting:Bring about 3 inches of water to an active simmer (bubbles breaking the surface regularly) in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, in a heat-proof bowl that fits snugly into the saucepan, combine everything except the vanilla. Beat with a mixer at low speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is pale yellow and very foamy.

Place the bowl over the simmering water and beat at high speed for 7 to 14 minutes or more, until the frosting becomes white, thick, and shiny, and triples in volume. Continue beating until the frosting forms firm peaks and loses some of its shine. Remove the bowl from the heat, add the vanilla, and continue beating for 2 minutes more.

To Frost the Cake:Place one cake layer, top-side down, on a cake stand or serving plate. Cover it generously with frosting and sprinkle with some of the coconut. Place the second layer on top of the first, top-side up. First frost the sides to help keep the cake steady, and then spread frosting generously over the top, completely covering the cake.

Place the cake stand or serving plate on a baking sheet to catch any loose coconut as you sprinkle it onto the cake. Once the top is covered, gently pat coconut handfuls of coconut onto the sides. Make sure there are no bare spots.

Transfer any unused coconut to a jar or resealable plastic bag and store it in the freezer.